Just when marketers thought they had enough social platforms to deal with, along comes Google+, the newest social platform from Google. And it’s off to a fast start with 20M+ users within a few weeks. For more on Google+ check out Mashable’s Google+: The Complete Guide.
We have been giving Google+ a closer look. If you are a B2B Marketer, Google+ could become a much more valuable channel to reach prospects and customers than LinkedIn and Twitter! While the latter are both successful social platforms for business users, they have been slow to innovate. If you are a B2C Marketer, Google+ as it ramps up on users vis-a-vis Facebook could again be a very attractive new channel. Google+ could outpace today’s social platform leaders very quickly, especially if they make specific moves to cater to the needs of businesses. Read on….
Social Presence for Businesses and Brands
Many businesses, both B2C and B2B, are already reaching out beyond their own corporate websites to develop a social presence. Two popular choices are Facebook Pages and Twitter Business Accounts. Some businesses are experimenting with LinkedIn Company Pages.
SAP Poll on Facebook
Facebook Pages, with their flexible brand controls, tab structure, and large ecosystem of third party tools and agencies are enabling businesses to create highly customized, branded experiences for their customers and prospects. It’s quite easy to add different engagement applications (polls, surveys, sign-ups, deals and promotions, presentations, videos, twitter streams, news and event announcements and more). And it’s not just B2C companies anymore. Many B2B companies such as SAP are connecting with their customers and prospects on Facebook today.
Even with all this, Facebook continues to stump marketers with their complex algorithms that determine what posts on a Company’s Facebook Page actually make it out to fans on their feeds. A marketer’s ability to drive interactivity and engagement via a specific Facebook post is still limited to text copy and content, an image and a link. Richer interactivity requires a link redirect to a Facebook page, or an external web page.
Twitter Business Accounts
Dell Outlet on Twitter
Twitter is able to serve a useful role as a conduit between a Business or Brand and its customers and prospects for customer service, promotions, deals, and general company information. However, given it’s inherent 140-character limit, the quality of the content consumption that’s possible on a Twitter stream remains limited. The native twitter web interface provides a limited experience for viewing photos and videos, and can only link out to long form content.
LinkedIn Company Pages and Groups
LinkedIn falls short of both Facebook and Twitter today. Developers and agencies have limited (if any) room to enhance the engagement model between a business and its customers. Businesses are also unable to provide highly relevant content in different interactive formats to their customers. LinkedIn Groups provides another avenue for businesses to connect with customers, but gets very noisy very quickly. A busy professional finds it almost impossible to identify valuable information from a promotional message inside a LinkedIn Group. LinkedIn Answers is yet another avenue for a business to showcase it’s expertise to prospects, to encourage them to engage with the brand. A key limitation here is answers getting locked down after a period of time, resulting in multiple redundant versions of the same question, and a disjointed collection of responses, which are also not easily whetted or sorted out by priority.
Google+ Business Profiles: A Wishlist
Google+ can take key learning from what works, and what does not in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and finally get a business-friendly social platform done right! Here are some key components:
Platform and Device Access: Open to all businesses, from the local corner store to a Fortune 10 company. Work well across all desktops, tablets and mobile devices.
Interfaces and APIs: Open interfaces with some structure. Quick and easy addition of a range of custom and third party applications into Business Profile pages. This will enable a business to offer their customers 100% of the same capabilities to interact and conduct transactions with the business as they do via their own website.
Upcoming Google+ Business Profiles
Circles for Business Profiles: Much has been written about Google+ circles, and whether individual users will use that capability effectively. Where circles will make even more sense is for businesses! Imagine being able to deliver targeted promotions, deals, content, information to prospects at different stages in their relationship with the business. Properly defined and managed Google+ business circles with deep analytics could provide the level of engagement with prospects inside a social platform that is hard to do today. Imagine lead nurturing inside Google+ (similar to what you would have to do today with a marketing automation platform such as Eloqua or Marketo).
The current interaction model for most lead nurturing platforms is email. Some are adding social capabilities. The model of tomorrow could be a combination of email and social streams (especially Google+ streams with its superior Circles-based user segmentation model) delivered via mobile or over the web. Imagine being able to do your lead nurturing with segmented prospect lists organized as Google+ Business Circles. For all this to work, Google+ needs to offer a level of transparency and openness well beyond what’s available today.
Easy Prospect Discovery: Google+ is powered by the world’s best search engine. They already rank and surface the most relevant content to a prospect who is expressing purchase intent via Google keyword searches. Google+ could become a top choice for businesses to create, post and share great content that is served out via Google+ streams. Google+ posts are linked to long form content on their own corporate blogs, and third party media sites. A great piece of content will get read, commented on, and voted up (+1s) by the network of customers and prospects. This in turn can be served up as a highly relevant piece of content to new prospects as they search inside Google+ and on the web. This would increase the pace at which businesses and prospects find each other, and confirm the fit and match between them. Google+ could take a very different approach from LinkedIn, with their (cold outreach) inMails and Group Member messages. A well-designed recommendation engine that shows related content to a post or content being consumed by a user would create a superior user experience.
Content Marketing Done Right
The Content Marketing Process
Content marketing today is all about writing a great post on a corporate blog, then getting the word out about the newly created content via any or all of these channels: – email newsletters – updates on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – engaging on community sites and third party blogs – answering questions on Quora, Focus, LinkedIn Answers, Salesforce Chatter, and other Q&A forums – guest posts and article placements on third party sites Prospects often discover content as a result of in-bound sharing and re-tweets on their social graphs through various channels. Another important channel for visibility is content hubs such as Youtube and Slideshare, where the hub promotes new content based on user views, likes, favorites. It’s a given that if you want an SEO friendly corporate blog, you need to write posts regularly to keep your blog fresh, and you also need to properly tag your posts with keywords that are relevant. Social sharing amongst peers remains the most effective means by which new content gets discovered by users, more so than “push marketing” by content creators. Effective content marketing will require optimizing for quick and easy publishing and sharing, on all of the major content consumption channels!
Sharing on Facebook – All Or Nothing?
With every user’s time at a premium, a key issue with Facebook is the lack of relevance of many posts to a recipient who is shown the post via his or her feed. The Facebook sharing model does not require a user to better match the post with relevant receivers in his or her social graph. That is so unlike an email based sharing interaction where, especially in a business context, most of us try to be sensitive to the fact that we should only send someone an email if we have something that would be of interest to them.
Sharing on Twitter – Save That Extra Click
Twitter shares work well, if the person who posts does a good job of explaining what exactly is being shared. Driving people to the extra click, not providing enough context on the shared content, can all lead to a poor experience for content consumers. Many a time, it makes much more sense to stay on the same page to watch a video, view a photo, or engage in some other way – not so easy to do today via the native Twitter web interface.
Sharing on LinkedIn – Share What? With Who?
LinkedIn status updates have been a little late to the social sharing party! As a result, many users are simply linking their Twitter accounts to LinkedIn. Tweets flow to LinkedIn users as well, via a marketer’s LinkedIn profile, and the associated status. Again, given the limited features around adding rich media components and interactivity to a LinkedIn status update, and given the updates disappear quickly, they are not a very effective means to share content in terms of both the user experience and the ROI to the marketer.
Sharing on Google+ – More Targeted, More Relevant?
The vision of enabling more targeted, more relevant social sharing in Google+ is extremely powerful. The challenge as we all know, is making it intuitive and easy for users. Google+ is off to a great start as far as allowing users to share content in many ways:
- Share via steam
- links to blog posts, videos, presentations, images and more, reaching a large number of people very quickly
- Live share via Hangouts
- While it is limited to a small set of people at a time, its a great way for businesses to test out new ideas, concepts, and connect with their most loyal customers for feedback
- Q&A – not available on Google+ today, but providing a Q&A capability with Individual Profiles (a la FormSpring), Business Profiles (a la any Website’s FAQ) and across Google+ (a la Yahoo Answers, LinkedIn Answers, Quora, Focus.com) with answers easily searchable across all possible Q&A placements, would create a very valuable new knowledge resource for customers and prospects, and a great way for businesses to engage their audience.
Other Related Topics That Will Interest Enterprise Marketers:
Q. How will display advertising evolve across Google+ ?
Q. What new forms of advertising might be part of the Google+ experience?
Q. How will Google+ Streams and Feeds impact Google Search and SEO tactics for both personal and business brands?
Q. How will email and social media campaign management evolve with the growth of Google+ Circles for Businesses?
When will all of this really happen? The fun is only just beginning. Let the Social Platform Wars Begin!